Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Boyfriend Looks at Porn and I Hate It

Tricia writes, "Ever since I was young enough to understand what pornography is, I've viewed it as something inappropriate and degrading. I am not religious at all--in fact I am atheist. Nonetheless, I have led my life by a very strict self-imposed moral code. 

"I've been hesitant to get into relationships with men who view pornography. From the very beginning, I make sure to bring this topic up and make my position on the matter clear. This is a challenge because most men look at pornography. I've concluded that those who say they don't are most likely lying.

"My current boyfriend assured me that he was quite disgusted by pornography and hadn't looked at it in years. I believed him. Our relationship progressed and I thought things were fine.

"Over time I had some problems trusting him. He would lie to me here and there about little things. I'd forgive him though we'd try to move on. However, sometimes I'd get this bad feeling inside that he was hiding something from me. I just couldn't understand it. I'd ask him if he looked at pornography and he'd say absolutely not. 

"The anxiety started to really get to me, so I decided to go to therapy. I figured it was just my own insecurities and I didn't want to make my boyfriend feel like I couldn't trust him. 

"Two years into our relationship, something awful happened. I found pornography on my his computer. I tried to let him redeem himself. I asked him if he was looking at pornography and he held me close and said he would never do that because he knows how it would hurt me. 

"I was furious. How could he lie right to my face about something so important to me? I told him what I'd seen on his computer. He tried to deny it initially, but eventually came clean. He told me he has been looking at it for the entirety of our relationship and just couldn't bring himself to tell me. He said that he'd always felt ashamed. He knew that if I ever found out I would be devastated and possibly leave him. Yet he did it anyway. 

"It has been really difficult for me to wrap my head around the whole thing. To realize how many times he has selfishly lied in order to get me and keep me in a relationship with him. If he had admitted that he looked at porn, I could have made up my own mind about what I wanted to do. Instead, he let me believe that he was the guy of my dreams who wasn't like other guys. I should have known better I guess. 

"He is willing to go to counseling and wants to change. I just don't know if I can go through what it might take to heal our relationship. I am feeling very lost. My anxiety is so extreme right now that I can't sleep. I can't focus at work. My mind races with horrible thoughts.


"I'm trying to deal with my anxiety in therapy. I want to progress on the path of healing and eventually trusting again.  Any words of wisdom or advice would be greatly appreciated."

Thanks for writing Tricia. Our heart goes out to you. I know that you've spoken for a many women. Here are some thoughts about your situation. I hope they're helpful.

Each one of us has a sentinel in our brain that monitors what we go through every day. It’s a nervous system alarm mechanism that’s sort of like a love watchdog, and it’s always on the lookout for signals about how our most important relationships is going.

Human development experts call it our attachment system. Those researchers who have come to know it best say that it switches on in the womb and operates until we die. The signals it sends us are both unmistakable--in fact, they're unignorable. Subjectively, they seem to come from the depths of our soul, which makes me suspect that there is more than just biology at work here.

This love watchdog, this sophisticated yet primal network within the nervous system, has a key purpose in our lives. It tells us whether everything’s okay our relationship with our primary attachment figure.

When I need him, is he there for me? If so, the sentinel screams out from the castle tower, “All is well!”

When I call, does he come? Another shout from the tower: “All is well!”

Is he as interested in me as I am in him? Nothing from the castle tower. Well, is he? I’m on pins and needles waiting for the sentinel’s signal.

Since we’ve been together I’ve been sexually exclusive. I’m drawn to him so I eschew chances to pursue other relationships. I’m content. He’s enough for me. Thoughts of sex with other people are less compelling to me than thoughts of sex with him. Even when I do find someone else attractive, I restrain my yearnings and fantasies. What we have together is too important. To flirt or fan the flames of lust for someone else would seem to strike at the heart of what I want to share only with him.

It’s been awfully quiet in there. Did he leave? There he is at the computer wide-eyed. He doesn't even hear that I’ve come in. What’s he working on that has him so engrossed? What?! Oh my, no!

Women don’t choose to be offended by porn. Their attachment system gives them no choice. Stress hormones are dumped into the nervous system. The question, “Is he into me the way I’m into him?” gets answered in the negative. He can say it’s not about that. Perhaps she can come to believe him on a logical level.

Nonetheless, the gates of her emotional security have been splintered to shreds. Porn is the battering ram that did the damage.

Fortunately, when both partners are willing, relationship security can be restored. There’s a lot that can be done to repair and rebuild. So much that Geoff Steurer and I have written an entire book about it. Here are some of the most important insights you’ll find in it:

1. Pornography can be a hard issue for any couple to work through. It's not necessarily that either spouse is handling it wrong. She keeps bringing it up--or needs to--because she's traumatized. He doesn't want to talk about it because he's so embarrassed.  Each reacts the way they do because the relationship is so important to them. Unfortunately, they’re each unintentionally depriving the other what they yearn for most from the relationship.

2. She needs him now more than ever. She's hurting; he's the most important person in her life, the one she naturally turns to when she's in need. Sure he feels rotten for putting her through this, but he doesn't have to let that prevent him from being the one who comes to her rescue now by listening when she needs to talk. His attentiveness now will mean more than anyone else’s, be it a friend, family member, ecclesiastical leader, or therapist.

3. His hesitance to talk doesn't mean he doesn't care. He feels more than he shows. In fact, he may be emotionally overloaded because he’s let her down. He may feel like he can't bear to discuss porn so much. He may freeze up when he thinks about admitting that he is tempted or that he gave in again. However, he can at least tell her why this is so: because she is the most important person in his life, the one he wants more than anything to please and measure up for!

4. He can learn to hear her hurt. Over time he begins to see that it draws them closer to talk about this topic that used to wedge them apart. He can take in--without always taking personally--what she's going through when she feels insecure in the middle of the day or night, when she lashes out or wants her space, or when the topic of sex reopens her wounds. As he takes in her pain and fear without getting defensive or pulling away, he becomes a healer for the relationship.

5. His relapses to porn are often fueled by feelings. An important step toward gaining control is becoming more aware of his emotional responses to everyday events. He can get into the habit of talking about what happened during his day and how he felt about it. Acknowledging feelings helps defuse their potential to convert into addictive impulses. This may be unfamiliar territory for him, but it becomes a tremendous relief to reach out (instead of acting out) in moments of emotional vulnerability. It also helps them bond as a couple.

6.  Reaching for each other is more healing when we make it habit. The wounds from porn are deeper when it was a frequent problem; healing must be even more regular. Couples can make it a daily ritual to draw close to one another by talking and touching first thing in the morning, during the day, when they reunite in the evening, and before going to sleep.

An interesting thing happens for couples as they apply these insights. It takes time, but somewhere along the way, as they continue to work at it, the attachment system in the betrayed partner’s brain is put at ease. From the depths of her soul she hears the cry from the lookout on castle wall… “All is well!” 

And it really is!

7 comments:

  1. My boyfriend loves porn.. as far as I'm concerned I'm pretty cute 5'1 100 pounds, blonde hair, petit... But my boyfriend... he watches porn more then he pays.attention to me. He will lies to me about And when I bring.up how much it hurts me, he gets really upset and a fight starts. He makes me feel like crap when I try to tell him how I feel. It's like he doesn't care at all that it hurts me or that I cry.about it when.he's not around. After we clear everything up. He's leaving me alone in bed the next morning to go watch porn on his Iphone and pretend he's in the shower... Like it hurts me so much that.I dont know.what to do anymore. I love him more then anything, but he would rather look at other girls bodys then my. own

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  2. Myztikone, I'm so sorry, I can tell your heart is breaking. It may feel hopeless, like you guys will never connect again the way you did when you fell in love, but don't give up! Your boyfriend is not a lost cause!

    While he may be hooked on porn now (and it sounds like he is) you have something going for you that porn can't compete with: you're real! At the end of a hard day porn will never hear his complaints and sympathize. When he wakes up from a nightmare it will never be the warm presence next to him.

    Porn is addictive, and there are people who won't let go even when real love is available. However, there's only fleeting pleasure there, superficial distraction. Most addicts only want the fix, they don't want the life. Hopefully he will see the chance he has for a full real life with you and work to turn his porn habits around before you give up on him and he loses the chance.

    Perhaps you could start a discussion with him by asking the question: "Are you in love with the porn life, or just hooked on the porn fix?" Is porn more his drug of choice or is it an alternative love interest, a preferred partner? These may sound like silly questions to him, but it sound like they're very real concerns to you. And given his behavior, how could you not feel discarded and replaced?

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  3. My bf has watched porn so many times and has lief to yhe point i kant go out with him without worrying hes looking at other girls the may look like the girls hes lookef up i was able to see every picture nd video im nothing compared to those girls idk what to do i hate going out with him because i feel ugly nd that he may be looking at girls wiyh big boobs and buts

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  4. It hurts so much he would take so long in the bathroim i feel ugly with my self iv never felt like this its been a year like this he stoped well he claims four months ago bt hes lied so much idk how to trust him nd he gets mad when i accuse or ask y he isent holding my hand or kissing me in public and i just feel worse nd when he stops holding my hand i feel like he dosent want to be seen with me

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  5. My boyfriend lied to me for months about watching the tulisa video and then told me his friend showed him it in work then I found it on search engine in the ps3. I can't get over the fact he lied to me all that time while I was looking after our baby. I am always there when he needs me but last night I found porn websites on his ps3 and I am really disgusted because he used one of my pajama tops to wipe it on! I am really angry he told me when I was pregnant that he didn't look at pictures of naked women or porn anymore inside I desperately want to leave but there's another part saying don't just be a family then there's apart saying I'm not happy constantly being lied to I would be happy without him, if he can lie about that he can lie about anything else. i confronted him last night and he shouted and said every guy does it

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  7. Since I met my husband, he's watched porn. Been thru so much together. He tries so hard not to lie but then again he plays sex games while I'm in the room. I told him I hated when he did that before so this time I'm just really sad right now. I don't even want to bring it up this time but would it be wrong of me if I refuse to have sex with him because I'm just so hurt and tired of this. I feel like I want to leave him, like I should but I don't want to sabotage myself either. We have 2 kids and I hardly have time to please him but I try so much to have the energy and time for him. I feel we only got married of the sex we use to have.

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